RetroSense Therapeutics, an Ann Arbor startup company, is targeting patients with blindness from retinal pigmentosa (RP) and advanced dry age-related macular degeneration (dry-AMD) for its new therapy derived from genes in blue-green algae.
According to the company’s website, it anticipates filing an IND with the FDA and starting clinical trials near the end of 2012. The company has started to raise fresh capital, according to a recent SEC filing.
In retinal degenerative diseases, the loss of photoreceptors, which convert light to nerve impulses and send them to the brain, leads to progressive peripheral vision loss and night vision troubles in patients. RetroSense’s lead candidate, RST-001, aims to use a one-time eye injection to deliver a new gene to retinal cells that will create new photosensors and partially restore light sensitivity.
The goal is for patients to be able to see well enough to recognize someone sitting close to them and to function daily, CEO Sean Ainsworth told Crain’s Detroit Business in November. The therapy will be initially targeted for treatment of retinitis pigmentosis, with dry-AMD as a follow-on indication. About 100,000 people suffer from RP, which is typically diagnosed in adolescents and young adults.
There are treatments to help slow retinal degeneration diseases, but no FDA approved therapies to improve or restore vision once it is lost, the company says. Currently, several RP treatments are being tried, and Advanced Cell Technology is in clinical trials of a stem-cell therapy for dry-AMD.
RetroSense’s novel approach was pioneered Dr. Zhuo-Hua Pan at Wayne State University and Dr. Alex Dizhoor at Salus University and was spun off into RetroSense in 2009. So far, the technology has shown improved light sensitivity in tests on small animals.
Previously, RetroSense has secured more than $3 million in support from the National Eye Institute, the Michigan Pre-Seed Capital Fund, the Michigan Initiative for Innovation and Entrepreneurship and TechTown in Detroit.